Mark Harris’ Thrilling Book Becomes a Thrilling Documentary in Netflix’s ‘Five Came Back’

Five Came Back

Not all of World War II was fought on the battlefield. Fighting the Nazis and imperialist Japan also consisted of a propaganda effort to help rally the nation behind the cause. The amazing true story of five Hollywood directors who abandoned their comfy lifestyle to serve their country in a concerted effort to document the struggle of World War II is the subject of the fantastic book by Mark Harris, Five Came Back. An incredibly well-researched piece of military and cinematic history, Five Came Back is a page-turner of the best kind that is enthralling and informative. Now Five Came Back has been adapted into a documentary series for Netflix. While this three-part series can’t match the depth of Harris’ book, it’s an amazing companion piece that honors the sacrifice of the five legendary directors as well as the larger national struggle to defeat the Axis powers. Like the text on which it’s based, Five Came Back is educational as well as thrilling in examining the role of cinema in World War II.

Five Came Back tells the story of the quintet of directors – Frank Capra, John Ford, George Stevens, William Wyler, and John Huston – and how they each left behind thriving careers in service of something greater. To elaborate on each director is a quintet of modern filmmakers. Steven Spielberg takes on Wyler, Guillermo Del Toro has Capra, Paul Greengrass handles Ford, Francis Ford Coppola discusses Huston, and Lawrence Kasdan discusses Stevens. Their analysis of these filmmakers is interspersed between archival interviews and footage as well as narration written by Harris and delivered by Meryl Streep. The modern directors provide context for the work of each of the filmmakers as well as biographical information while the narration by Streep tie these threads together with historical information and pertinent stories that range from the emotionally powerful to comic anecdotes. It allows Five Came Back to retain the feel of the book while standing on its own because the quintet of modern directors have their own observations about the work of each filmmaker that differs from Harris’ interpretation.

As great at Harris’ book is, there’s one thing that this documentary series does that he simply can’t do on the page – present the visuals of the movies being discussed. Whether it’s discussing the pre-war films of Capra and Ford or the wartime documentaries produced by Huston and Wyler, Five Came Back provides the visual context that a book simply cannot, adding another stunning layer to this incredible true story. One of the most thrilling chapters in the book dealt with John Ford’s filming of the Battle of Midway, and seeing the documentary footage makes Ford’s military exploits all the more incredible than they were on the page.

Five Came Back isn’t simply a piece of reverence for America’s role in the war effort. The series, directed by Laurent Bouzereau, doesn’t shy away from being critical of some of the filmmaker’s efforts as well as the racist aspects of the anti-Japanese propaganda, which took a noticeably different tone than anti-German propaganda. Some of the propaganda films these directors made were entirely staged, and it’s fascinating to watch these modern masters of filmmaking debate the ethical merits of staging events and passing them off as real. Five Came Back also gets into the segregation of the military and the constraints that the filmmakers were under when trying to make unifying propaganda that was inclusive of black Americans. This documentary series is on par with the book because it can look at the whole of America’s role in the war, from our collective triumphs to our collective shame.

This documentary series does what Harris’ book does best – work as both a history of Hollywood and military operations during World War II. It’s full of funny anecdotes, such Daryl Zanuck donning a uniform and making a documentary that extolled the virtues of Daryl Zanuck. (He was later discharged and his uniform-wearing habits were lampooned in the Coen BrothersBarton Fink.) It highlights the sacrifices that so many made to defeat the rising tide of fascism, and how the war was fought on a number of different fronts. Making a documentary informative is tricky on its own, but making it as informative as well as thrilling as Five Came Back is truly an incredible feat. This magnificent piece of documentary filmmaking should be viewed by film lovers and history buffs alike, and perhaps we can all learn something about what makes us all Americans.

Five Came Back debuts exclusively on Netflix on Friday, March 31st. In conjunction with the release of Five Came Back, Netflix will also be featuring a number of the documentaries made by these filmmakers during World War II.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Riley Keough
Riley Keough Explains Her Revved Up Work in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Logan Lucky’

Over the past few years, few actors have had such a...

Brett Gelman Janicza Bravo
Brett Gelman and Janicza Bravo Discuss the Off-Putting Humor Behind ‘Lemon’

The new film Lemon from director Janicza Bravo and co-writer and...

‘Baywatch’ Washes Ashore August 29th

The movie adaptation of Baywatch had everything going for it…casting-wise. You...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
This Week In Gaming News August 12th to 18th 2017

Gaming News will be streamlined into a weekly piece starting next...

Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within
Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within Episode One Available Now

Define your own Bruce Wayne and reshape The Joker in the...

atgames
AtGames Announces Pre-orders for New Atari 2600 and Sega Genesis

Pre-orders started for the new Atari Flashback 8 Gold and Sega...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
viz
VIZ Media Announces New Digital Manga Content For August Update

VIZ Media details digital manga updates for August highlighted by the...

viz
VIZ Media Announces New Manga and Literary Acquisitions At Anime Expo

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), a premier company in the fields of...

9.0/10
Supergirl Makes Contact in ‘Supergirl Being Super’

Title: Supergirl Being Super #4 Writer: Mariko Tamaki Artist: Joelle Jones...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Ay Caramba!Penny Skateboards Join Up with The Simpson’s

After 30 years, 618 episodes (and counting), 32 Emmy Awards, and...

Sensei 310
SteelSeries Sensei 310 and Rival 310 Gaming Mice

SteelSeries Unveils the First, True 1-to-1 Esports Gaming Mouse Sensor Exclusively...

Alter Ego Release Groot and Deadpool for SDCC

From Alter Ego – Cary, NC: Florida based lifestyle accessories company,...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Mayweather and McGregor Previous Fights Now On Demand on Cable, Plus Interviews, Workouts and More

From iN DEMAND – New York, Aug. 17 – Before the...

Rumble on the Water 2 Delivers Punching Power

July 29, 2017 – Long Beach, CA – The Queen Mary...

UFC Star Jon ‘Bones’ Jones Releases Emoji App – BonesMoji

From BonesMoji – Los Angeles, CA., July 27, 2017 – One...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
CULTURAL JUNK DRAWER SDCC 2017 86.3% TRUE RECAP!

A totally true recap of the most important geek cultural even...

Comics on the Can: Schick Hydrobot and the Transformers

Written by John Barber, Pencils by Steve Kurth, Inks by Juan...

Star Wars Themed Lands Will be the Perfect Safe House for the Rebellion and the First Order

Disney’s D23 Expo has revealed a lot of what is to...

Event News Event Reviews
The Third Annual ‘BeerX’ from 91X in San Diego Featured Sunburns and Beer Goggles

This past Saturday, I attended the 3rd annual BeerX, presented by...

anime film festival
LA-Anime Film Festival Kicks Off to Celebrate 100 Years of Anime Films

Los Angeles Anime Film Festival (LA-AFF), presented by international creative company...

stan lee
Extraordinary: Stan Lee at The Saban Theatre

Comedian, Nerdist CEO, and podcast extraordinaire Chris Hardwick will lead a roster of...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Lahna Turner’s ‘Limeade’ is a Hilariously Haunting Comedy Album

Many people are roll their eyes at the idea of musical...

Prince’s ‘Deliverance’ Reminds Us of Who We Lost

On Friday, April 21st, it will be one year since we...

Sabroso Fest, How can you go Wrong with Beer, Tacos and Lucha Libre!?!(Photo Gallery)

The Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco and Music Festival sponsored by 95.5...